Resonate: A book review by Bob Morris

Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences
Nancy Duarte
John Wiley & Sons (2010)

How and why to create significant, sincere, and enlightening moments during presentations that “drive the big idea home”

Don’t be deterred by the shape of this book (I was) and incorrectly assume that it is heavy on packaging and light on content. Quite the contrary. What Nancy Duarte provides in this volume is an abundance of information, insights, cautions, and recommendations that can help almost anyone to create significant, sincere, and enlightening moments during presentations that “drive the big idea home.” She characterizes them as “S.T.A.R. moments” and offers several stunning examples: when Richard Feynman explained the probable cause of the space shuttle Challenger disaster; when Bill Gates explained his philanthropic motivations and objectives during his 2009 TED talk; and when Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air in 2008.

There are five types of S.T.A.R. moments: Memorable Dramatizations, Repeatable Sound Bites, Evocative Visuals, Emotive Storytelling, and Shocking Statistics. (Please see Page 148.) As Duarte explains, “The S.T.A.R. moment shouldn’t be kitschy or cliché. Make sure it’s worthwhile and appropriate, or it could end up coming off like a really bad summer camp skit. Know your audience and determine what will resonate best with them. Don’t create something that’s overly emotionally charged for an audience of biochemists.”

As I worked my way through Duarte’s lively and eloquent narrative, I was reminded of several other such moments. For example, during the conclusion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, and during Ronald Reagan speech on January 28, 1986, when he discussed the space shuttle Challenger disaster ( In these and other situations, Duarte explains the power and impact of such S.T.A.R. moments by citing a simple phenomenon in physics. “If you know an object’s natural state of vibration, you make it vibrate without touching it. Resonance occurs when an object’s natural vibrancy frequency responds to an external stimulus of the same frequency.”

As Duarte explains so well, those who make presentations that have the greatest impact, that create the most memorable moments, understand that if they “adjust to the frequency of [their] audience so that [their] message resonates deeply, they, too, will display self-organizing behavior.” That is, their listeners will see the place where they are to move to create something collectively beautiful. A groundswell.

Here’s Nancy Duarte’s key point: “The audience does not need to tune themselves to you – you need to tune your message to them.”

Those who share my high regard for this brilliant book are urged to check out the resources provided at Also these: Carmine Gallo’s The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Robert B. Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, and Stephen Denning’s The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative.


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1 Comment

  1. Nancy Duarte on March 17, 2011 at 3:33 am

    Thank you for this kind review, Bob!

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